The BlitzBoks produced a stunning second-half comeback to beat Fiji 20-19 in the Cup Final of the Singapore Sevens on Sunday.
The BlitzBoks, who have only won two of their 30 World Rugby Sevens Series Cup titles in Asia, scored 20 unanswered points in the second half after being 0-19 down at half-time.
The Cup final, from the start to the finish, was an exceptional contest and one of the most gripping this world series. Fiji flew in the opening seven minutes, looking unstoppable, as Aminiasi Tuimaba, Napolioni Bolaca and Vilimoni Botitu made their intensity count on the scoreboard.
With a 19-0 cushion it looked as if they would retain the title that they won 12 months ago, something no side has ever been able to do, but South Africa had other ideas.
Youngster Kurt-Lee Arendse commenced their fightback, the Player of the Final Angelo Davids followed alongside Ryan Oosthuizen one minute later. In the final seconds, South Africa remained two points down before Selvyn Davids connected with a late penalty and they held Fiji out to complete the job.
The result means that South Africa remain in fourth place in the world series standings with 121 points but open up a 14-point cushion over fifth-placed England (107 points). Fiji, now on 142 points, cut the USA’s lead at the top of the standings to just three points with New Zealand sitting in third (130 points).
With the complexion of the world series standings going into the tournament, the USA, Fiji and New Zealand all had the potential to secure qualification for Tokyo 2020. However with the twists and turns of the two days, none were able to achieve the world series points required to do so and the race for early Olympic Games qualification continues.
The next stop on the World Rugby Sevens Series will be London on 25-26 May before the series reaches its conclusion in Paris, the weekend after.
England equalled their best finished since Sydney by securing a bronze medal with a 28-7 victory over the USA at the National Stadium.
The final was a passionate affair and both sides saw yellow cards in the first half, including two for Joe Schroeder (deliberate knock-on and a dangerous tackle).
The USA held firm and forced England to go well beyond normal time in order to gain an advantage but gain one they did. Simon Amor’s side went into the pause 14-7 up and worked their numerical advantage for the whole of the second seven minutes to create their 21-point win and secure 17 world series points.
England had found themselves contesting for bronze after one of the most enthralling matches of the weekend. The side’s face-off against Fiji had everything and the 26-12 final scoreline didn’t reflect the closeness of the contest. Fiji had flown into a 12-0 lead before that was cut back to 12-12. Both outfits put outstanding try-saving tackles on the park, including Harry Glover being denied with a minute to go, and then Fiji’s two late strikes through Sevuloni Mocenacagi and Meli Derenalagi ensured the hardest of hard-earned victories.
The USA’s eighth consecutive Cup semifinal didn’t go their way. Instead, South Africa clicked against them and dominated the first half. The BlitzBoks limited the USA’s ball and clinically took their two tries. Mike Friday’s men never gave up though, striking back after the interval and again on the final play, but Impi Visser’s 50-metre effort and a penalty try meant that they couldn’t catch their opponents and fell 24-12.
Samoa ensured that they finished in fifth position with a 19-17 victory over New Zealand and avenged their hurtful day-one loss to the outfit.
With fifth place on the line, the duo played out another corker and they traded early tries as two prolific try-scorers – Joe Ravouvou and John Vaili – set out their stalls.
Samoa then put their noses in front as every player played their part in a team score for a 14-7 cushion. In the second half, ill-discipline plagued the work of Samoa and their two yellows cards (one for a deliberate knock-on and one for not giving the ball back) were punished. The All Blacks Sevens led 17-14 in the final seconds of normal time but then own discipline waned. With Samoa facing six, Vaili took it upon himself to use the space and deliver the footwork and fend that clinched a victory.
Earlier in the day, Samoa had to overcome a tense comeback from Argentina for the honour of playing in the fifth-place final while New Zealand and Australia played out a classic contest that went to extra time. In the end, Tim Mikkelson was the man to break Australian hearts as he accelerated over and scored the decisive points.
France secured the Challenge Trophy in the most dramatic and impressive of fashions with a 22-19 victory over Scotland.
John Dalziel’s side were looking to secure back-to-back Challenge Trophy titles after success in Hong Kong and led 19-17 as the time went into the red. However, Scotland didn’t have possession. France did and that allowed Les Bleus to orchestrate a moment of match-winning magic. From the right, they worked the ball back infield and then Sacha Valleau put boot to ball. His pinpoint grubber to the left corner was chased by Tavite Veredamu and the 29-year-old grounded it single-handedly to snatch victory and the trophy.
France also had worked incredibly hard during their semifinal against Canada. The first half saw pulsating tries scored by both sides and some outstanding defensive work from Gabin Villiere. The result was a narrow 12-7 lead to Canada after seven minutes. Both teams commenced the second seven with errors before Villiere popped a try-creating pass to Remi Siega. The conversion made it 14-12 to Les Bleus and it stayed that way until Veredamu hit from close range with 20 seconds to go and sealed the 19-12 victory.
Scotland’s route to their second Challenge Trophy final in as many tournaments, saw them enjoy success against Wales. They started like a freight train, scoring four first-half tries, and that included McFarland notching up his seventh and eighth of the weekend – he would finish with nine. Gavin Lowe’s excellent restart accuracy also stood out and ultimately helped them orchestrate a 26-0 half-time cushion. That turned into 33-12 after 14 minutes.